"I think I can turn the page fast again"

Working from home during the corona crisis is slowly becoming our ‘new normal’. We learn to deal with the changed framework and our pitfalls in this situation, find our way in being at home and miss the campus and each other in the meantime like never before. Cursor calls a fellow remote worker every day to find out what’s up. Today: Burcu Gumuscu-Sefunc, who just started as an assistant professor at the department of Biomedical Engineering.

photo Privécollectie Burcu Gumuscu-Sefunc

It’s quite the challenge for many TU/e people: working from home surrounded by children. Add a new job to the equation, including moving to a new city in a different province, et voilà: you've pretty much summed up Burcu's life at the moment.

On April 1st she started her new job in the Biointerface Science group of professor Jan de Boer. Her husband Akin, who works as an optical engineer, joined ASML on May 1st. The couple moved to Eindhoven from Enschede, where Burcu conducted her PhD research. In 2017 and 2018, she made a trip to the United States for a postdoc at UC Berkeley.

She was ready to broaden her horizons, says Burcu, who grew up in the Turkish capital Ankara. Enschede was a great start to become familiar with the Dutch academic culture, "but I wanted to grow elsewhere and was looking for new challenges." According to her, TU/e is highly regarded, in general and in her own field, "and you are close to large companies, such as Philips, which in turn offers interesting opportunities for research collaborations." According to Burcu, her husband soon agreed when she proposed a joint new start in Brabant.

Yes, these are strange times to change heart and home, the researcher acknowledges. Laughing: "But so far, so good." When we speak with Burcu, the family (with the almost eleven-month-old Melisa as the youngest member) has just settled in the Eindhoven district of Strijp for a few days. Some moving boxes still have to be unpacked, the neighborhood and city have barely been explored. Although she visited the university campus twice before she was appointed (“really beautiful”), since her start on April 1st her connection with the university has been virtual only.

Positive feeling

“In March I already got to join online meetings and Jan de Boer introduced me to the others, which was great. Because everyone now works from home, I have hardly been able to meet anyone from my group live, but we can still talk online, exchange ideas and give feedback.” According to Burcu, it is also possible to get an impression of a place and its people through some good online research and via Skype conversations, "and my feeling about the TU/e is simply very positive."

Read on below the photo.

Nevertheless, her start in Eindhoven is one of challenges. For example, Burcu still had some work to complete in Enschede, which means that the workload is sometimes a bit out of balance. In addition, the family has just moved and daughter Melisa cannot go to the nursery until mid-May.

So yes, time is a problem sometimes. “Basically, I have two one-hour time slots during the day where I am available for questions, namely when our daughter is sleeping. I also regularly work in the evenings or very late at night; then it’s quiet and I work on, for example, writing summaries and research proposals. At the moment I do sleep a little less, yes.” It may not be the best start, she says, “but I am very excited about my new job and full of ideas that I want to realize. Moreover: work is work, and if I have planned a task for a certain day, I will not go to bed until that task has been completed.”

Crazy times

No nine-to-five schedule for the born Turkish, that’s for sure, “but I also know that these crazy times will soon be over; that realization keeps me going. The nurseries will open again soon, the moving is almost finished, which will hopefully give me more time to focus on my work again.”

I really miss the 'office', because I can concentrate a lot better on my work there

Burcu Gumuscu-Sefun
Assistant professor at Biomedical Engineering

A permanent and well-equipped workplace could certainly help with this, were it not for the boxes that are still unpacked and Burcu traveling through her own house as a kind of work nomad: “I work where I find a free spot.” She says she looks forward to “being able to be more efficient again”, preferably on campus anyway. “I really miss the 'office', because I can concentrate a lot better on my work there. And I look forward to seeing colleagues face-to-face, exchanging ideas, giving lectures and meeting students. Hopefully that will be possible soon.”

When it will happen, Burcu doesn’t dare to predict. Especially since the virus entered Europe via Italy, the whole corona crisis has certainly made her cautious: in going to public places, for example, and in her interactions with others: "Not only for myself and my husband, but I also immediately think of our child." To put it into perspective: "Fortunately we are new to the city and we don't know that many people here." Hopefully, if the corona crisis in the Netherlands subsides somewhat, she expects to make up for that lack of social interaction soon. “As a Turkish I come from a Mediterranean culture, one of warm ties with others. I think I’ll be able to turn that page fast again.”

She also hopes to be able to make some nice city trips again and to show her daughter cities like Paris and Rome. In addition to jogging and baking, she has set her sights on a new musical hobby: learning to play the oud, a wooden string instrument with a characteristic oriental sound. The musical base is there: "In the past I played the guitar for a while, hopefully those skills remained." But first she has to get her hands on a nice copy of the instrument. Because even though you can get almost anything online: "You want to hold an instrument, you want to be able to touch it."

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